Transformation and Sustainability Plan

Message from the CEO

For nearly a quarter century, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has leveraged our Nation’s greatest resource—the American people—to get things done. Working hand in hand with thousands of local partners, CNCS funds programs that improve lives, expand opportunity, encourage personal responsibility, and strengthen civil society.

Through the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, 300,000 trained and dedicated citizens provide their service at 50,000 sites across the country. They take on tough problems, assume leadership roles, and deliver powerful results, recruiting millions of additional volunteers to increase their impact.

CEO Barbara Stewart supporting an AmeriCorps team at a Habitat for Humanity Buildathon in 2018.

CEO Barbara Stewart supporting an AmeriCorps team at a Habitat for Humanity Buildathon in 2018.


Our members and volunteers help millions of Americans succeed in school, prepare for 21st century jobs, live with independence and dignity, increase self-sufficiency, and rebuild their lives after addiction, homelessness, job loss, or natural disasters. We are advancing multiple priorities of President Trump’s Administration to promote economic mobility, develop workforce skills, revitalize cities, combat the opioid crisis, prevent elder abuse, support veterans and military families, and grow the economy.

Supporting this large and decentralized system of national service requires a strong, high-performing agency. Our Transformation and Sustainability Plan will make CNCS more efficient, effective, and accountable to better serve our customers, meet the needs of the Nation, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

The plan outlines specific steps the agency will take to:

  • Ensure our core business functions are accountable and effective
  • Make it easier for organizations and individuals to participate in our programs
  • Strengthen our impact in communities by prioritizing evidence-based models
  • Align our workforce and workplaces to better serve our customers, meet evolving needs, and ensure efficient use of public funds

This plan outlines the work we need to do to achieve our mission, increase our impact, and build long-term sustainability. It is the culmination of months of intensive review of our operations and programs. We considered a wide range of recommendations from the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, the Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and other CNCS evaluations and reports.

We also considered years of input and ideas from staff, grantees, national service members, and other stakeholders.

The plan responds to the requirement for all Federal agencies to develop recommendations to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability. It also aligns with the President’s Management Agenda for modernizing the Federal Government to better deliver on mission outcomes, provide excellent customer service, and effectively manage taxpayer dollars. We look forward to sharing this plan with our stakeholders and seeking their input on implementation.

As CEO, my top priority is implementing this plan to ensure the sustainability of national service. My experience in the private sector has taught me that every organization can and must look for opportunities for improvement. CNCS is no exception.

Making these improvements will take an all-hands-on-deck effort. Knowing the level of dedication and professionalism of our staff, grantees, and members, I am confident we will rise to this challenge. Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make the improvements necessary to produce the lasting change we all desire. And when we have made these changes, we will be in a much stronger position to increase our positive impact in communities across the Nation.

America's greatness comes from the extraordinary acts of ordinary citizens. For nearly 25 years, CNCS has tapped the ingenuity and can-do spirit of the American people to solve local problems. We look forward to strengthening this foundation and creating more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and strengthen our Nation.

Warmest Regards,

Barbara Signature
Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service


Goals

Goal 1: Strengthen core business functions

VISTA members in strategic meeting

What: CNCS will strengthen and improve its core operational functions, including:

  • Improving mission-critical information technology
  • Improving accounting, financial, and budgetary practices and systems
  • Increasing compliance among grantees for critical grant requirements, such as adhering to the Criminal History Check protocol
  • Significantly decreasing the agency’s improper payment rate through proactive technical support to grantees throughout the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act process
  • Exploring the use of shared services for transactional accounting, human capital, and procurement functions.


Why: These changes will increase capacity across operation areas and better support the work of our grantees. Without a solid operational foothold, many of the larger-scale initiatives in this plan will be difficult to achieve. Improving core operational functions will provide a strong foundation for creating more impact across the Nation.

Goal 2: Strengthen and align grants management and monitoring to improve efficiencies and maximize effectiveness

Senior Corps RSVP planning session

What: CNCS will develop a new combined portfolio manager role responsible for program and financial management. In addition, CNCS will establish a central monitoring and compliance office to strengthen grantee oversight.

Why: This change will address grantee concerns about having multiple agency points of contact for multiple awards and address issues that can arise when those who are responsible for providing technical assistance and ongoing support also oversee grantee compliance. It will also ensure more robust and consistent oversight of grants. The Government Accountability Office recommended this following an audit of CNCS’ monitoring process. This change makes it easier for grantees to interact with the agency and separates award management from monitoring for improved oversight.

Goal 3: Prioritize evidence-based interventions

Senior Corps volunteers tutoring students

What: CNCS will further refine the intervention models it funds based on evidence and demonstrated success, while maintaining the flexibility to support statutory and Administration priorities. CNCS will also continue to support innovative interventions and approaches based upon preliminary evidence in order to build grantee capacity, foster innovation, and meet evolving community needs, and will evaluate these interventions to learn more about whether they are effective.

Why: Historically, CNCS has not been prescriptive in the types of interventions it funds beyond identifying areas of need. CNCS now has more than two decades of experience and research data that help identify the most impactful interventions across its programs. Going forward, CNCS will target those interventions that have demonstrated success based on data and evidence. This deliberate and focused approach will enable states and CNCS to maximize the impact of federal and matching funds.

Goal 4: Simplify and streamline the application process

AmeriCorps NCCC hard at work

What: CNCS will continue to simplify the existing application and work toward the development and deployment of a common application for all programs. CNCS will provide applicants and grantees with a single point of entry and common application for its programs.

Why: While CNCS has multiple programs with different statutory authorities, similarities among these programs create an opportunity to improve the application process. In addition to streamlining the process for applicants, a common application will increase the efficiency of the review and award processes, reducing administrative costs and burden.

This change will make it easier for current and prospective grantees, including smaller organizations, to navigate the application process.

Goal 5: Simplify the CNCS brand

CNCS, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps logos

What: CNCS will analyze our multiple brands in order to simplify our message and increase public awareness.

Why: Since its creation in 1993, CNCS has struggled to create an easily recognized brand. Further, its legal status as a corporation is confusing to staff, stakeholders, and especially to those unfamiliar with its core programming.

A simplified brand will eliminate confusion about CNCS programs and allow the American people to better understand and participate in national service.

Goal 6: Align our workforces and workplaces to better serve our customers, meet evolving needs, and ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars

Large group of volunteers with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members

What: CNCS will restructure and regionalize its workforce to better accomplish the goals outlined in this plan.

CNCS will increase the standardization and uniformity of management across all programs by assigning the program development and support functions in a redesigned field structure. CNCS will:

  • Maximize the talent, knowledge, institutional memory and commitment of CNCS’s greatest asset, its workforce, by creating working teams that include employees from the field, programs, and operations to help determine the best regional structure. These teams will help determine positions and duties needed to fulfill our mission.
  • Rationalize and reorganize the current field structure to more effectively manage grant awards and external partnerships, while also separating it from the monitoring function for improved oversight, and empower regionally-based leaders with the necessary authority to successfully manage their regions
  • Locate newly created portfolio manager roles (see Goal 2) in the new regional structure
  • Ensure that the realigned regional structure can build and sustain strong stakeholder relationships
  • Provide more robust and explicit career ladders for staff to maximize benefit of experience, institutional history and reduce attrition
  • Centralize policy development, data collection, and evidence.

Why: In addition to de-coupling support and oversight responsibilities, this goal further streamlines CNCS work processes and structure in order to build greater capacity and reduce redundancies, strengthens staff capabilities to support succession planning, improves service to the public, promotes accountability across the agency, and expands career development and advancement opportunities to retain high-quality staff.

Restructuring the CNCS workforce and geographic footprint will enable CNCS to more effectively meet its mission and be responsible stewards of Federal funding.

View PDF Version of Plan

Click the button below to view a PDF version of this plan. 

PDF Version


CNCS Tranformation and Sustainability Plan Public Comment Period

The public comment period (June 19- August 24) is now closed. We extend sincere thanks to all those who submitted comment; your feedback is crucial to the success of the Transformation and Sustainability Plan. 
 
 

 

Transformation and Sustainability Plan Call Recordings

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November Update

Dear Friends,

It has been six months since I shared with you the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Transformation and Sustainability Plan, a set of goals designed to strengthen national service and volunteering and make CNCS more efficient, effective, and accountable to better serve our customers, meet the needs of the Nation, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Our plan includes six goals that address critical issues for sustaining a strong, high-performing agency equipped to support our large and decentralized system of national service. While this plan entails change, I want to continue to emphasize three things that are important to our state and community stakeholders:

  • This plan will not change CNCS’s important mission to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. It will, however, strengthen our ability to execute our mission.
  • This plan will not impact the funds going to states and communities.
  • CNCS turns 25 years old this year. The Transformation and Sustainability Plan is critical to ensuring the agency and our programs are best positioned to support national service in the future.

Today, I want to share an update on the progress CNCS is making on these goals. In addition to our ongoing efforts to seek input from stakeholders, we have worked at an accelerated pace to strengthen our core business functions and conduct thoughtful, staff-led analysis of our organization’s operating structure and roles. Our progress includes:

Launching new tools and policies to support grantee compliance with National Service Criminal History Checks (NSCHC). Earlier this month, CNCS announced the launch of the approved NSCHC vendor, Truescreen. This launch was a direct response to grantee feedback on the difficulty and burden associated with NSCHC compliance, an issue of concern which has consistently been raised by some members of Congress and the Office of the Inspector General. I am confident that the new vendor will not only improve compliance for grantees, but ultimately reduce grantees’ burden in complying with the NSCHC process, allowing them to focus on their main priority: serving communities in need.

Continuing to make progress on strengthening CNCS’s core business functions, including modernizing our financial management and information technology. New leaders in the Department of the Chief Financial Officer are strengthening financial operations and management through process improvement. Additionally, we directed an external review of National Service Trust accounting and coordinated with the Department of the Treasury, OMB, and the Office of Inspector General on enhancements to Trust transactions and reporting that will be fully implemented later this year. More recently, we awarded a new IT contract to accelerate the modernization of our grants and member management system.

Announcing a path forward on regional structure and grants management and monitoring. As previously announced, CNCS will transition to a regional field structure to improve consistency in how our agency delivers its services, strengthen continuity in our operations, and create more robust career ladders for staff. After thorough analysis, today I have announced a new eight-region field structure for CNCS. The agency’s new regional offices will be located in Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; and Manchester, NH, which is part of the Greater Boston region. This regional structure will bring CNCS into closer alignment with many other federal agencies and position CNCS to be even more responsive to areas of need. We will continue to serve and strengthen our partnership with Governor-appointed State Service Commissions that continue to carry out their mission of service in every state.

Additionally, CNCS will establish a new role of Grant and Project Portfolio Managers in each region. This role will be responsible for combined programmatic and financial management of grants and programs, enabling grantees and sponsors to have a single point of contact within the agency, and enabling CNCS staff to have an all-encompassing view of their grants and projects. To complement this more streamlined approach, Portfolio Managers will service the full menu of CNCS national service programs – including AmeriCorps State and National, Senior Corps, and AmeriCorps VISTA, as well as supporting AmeriCorps NCCC project development – from our regional field structure. This change positions CNCS staff to engage more comprehensively with current or prospective grantees/sponsors, members, and volunteers to identify the national service programs that are the best fit for them.

Oversight of our grantees/sponsors remains a critical responsibility of our agency, and an area in which CNCS must continue to strengthen its practices to be more responsive to areas of risk. To support our goal of improved oversight, CNCS will establish a centralized compliance monitoring unit at headquarters to oversee grantee, sponsor, member, and volunteer compliance with federal requirements, as well as other areas of compliance.

While change is never easy, I believe these changes are necessary to position our agency to be more effective and responsive in carrying out our mission. More information on these changes and their timing can be found here.

As I have mentioned before, progress on each of our Transformation and Sustainability Plan goals will move at different paces. I remain committed to leveraging the incredible passion, expertise, and insight of our stakeholders, staff, and communities in the further design and implementation of the plan. Our responsibility is too great and our mission is too important not to make the improvements necessary to strengthen CNCS’s foundation. This will position us to create more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and our Nation.

I look forward to keeping you updated and engaged on our progress, and working alongside you over the months ahead.

 

Warmest Regards,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

 

TSP Fact Sheet - November 2018

 


 

December Update

Dear Grantees, Sponsors, and State Service Commissions,

Two weeks ago, we shared details about upcoming improvements to CNCS's organizational structure. These improvements include establishing an eight-region field structure with offices located in Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; and Manchester, NH. These eight regions will support national service in all 50 states and territories. In addition, we will establish the new role of Grant and Project Portfolio Managers in each region. The managers in this role will be responsible for combined program and financial management of all CNCS grants and programs.

Why this matters for CNCS grantees and sponsors:

  • CNCS’s new regional structure and realigned grant making and monitoring roles will make it easier for grantees and sponsors to interface with our agency. With these changes, organizations will be able to access CNCS programs through a single point of contact who will help current and prospective grantees navigate the full menu of national service programs. 
     
  • The realigned roles and regional office structure will position CNCS to improve and enhance consistency in our customer service. Portfolio Managers will have more balanced workloads that will enable them to facilitate even more robust training and technical assistance for grantees and sponsors.  
     
  • The regional structure brings CNCS into closer alignment with many other federal agencies, and positions CNCS to be even more responsive to areas of need. Our agency will also create specialty portfolio manager positions to support unique relationships that may require specialized skillsets, such as supporting our tribal grantees and sponsors.
     
  • These changes help ensure CNCS and our programs are best positioned to support the growth of national service and long-term sustainability of our agency. 

Please be assured that:

  • This plan does not impact the funds going to states and communities or national service participants serving in states and communities. 
     
  • This plan does not impact our financial support for Governor-appointed State Service Commissions that administer and distribute CNCS grant funds. 
     
  • This plan does not change CNCS’s important mission and commitment to getting things done in communities across the country. 

The process to implement our new structure will start this summer, as we close existing CNCS state office spaces and stand up our new regional offices. The first regional offices will be operational by Fall 2019. During this transition time, your point of contact will not change, and you will continue to receive the same support and guidance for your grants and projects. 


For questions about your project or who to contact: 

While these changes over the next two years will require a period of adjustment, they position both national service and CNCS for a more sustainable future.

I realize you will have questions about these changes, and we will continue to keep you informed as the Transformation and Sustainability Plan moves forward. You can direct questions about these changes to our Transformation and Sustainability Team at transform@cns.gov and find more information at www.nationalservice.gov/transformation.


Respectfully,

Barbara signature blue ink

Barbara Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
Corporation for National and Community Service

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